Evans Leads Bucs to Big Win in D.C.

Things were going so well for Mike Evans at one point during Sunday’s game at FedExField that he somehow managed to gain 104 yards on an 80-yard drive.

If that seems extraordinary – if not quite impossible – well this was a rare day indeed for the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Evans’ 209 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches led the Buccaneers to a dominant 27-7 road win over the Washington Redskins, snapping a five-game losing streak and improving Tampa Bay to 2-8. While Evans was running roughshod through the Washington secondary, Tampa Bay’s defense was setting one season high with six sacks and tying another one with three turnovers. The Buccaneers also scored on defense for the first time since Week Five.

The Buccaneers won a road game by 20 or more points for the first time since a 21-0 victory at San Francisco on November 21, 2010. QB Josh McCown, who repeatedly looked for his rookie receiver when facing long second and third downs, said the team’s second road win of 2014 was a full-team effort.

“This win was everybody together, and it started with the way our defense set the tone,” said McCown. “They were getting out, they were doing the things that we’ve talked about for a long time, how they want to play. It was up to follow suit. It started a little slow, we needed to convert those [takeaways] early on, those turnovers need to be seven [points]. Those are things we’ll look at the tape and get better on. But it was a heck of an effort by everybody today, and it was fun playing quarterback for this team today.

McCown made his fifth start as a Buccaneer but just his second since suffering a thumb injury in Week Three. In his return to the lineup in Week 10, McCown threw for 301 yards and two scores but was also intercepted twice in the fourth quarter. On Sunday, he was close to perfect, compiling a passer rating of 137.5. McCown completed 15 of 23 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. McCown averaged 12.52 yards per pass attempt on Sunday, the sixth-highest single-game mark in franchise history.

Obviously, the talents of his young teammate helped in that regard. With the Bucs clinging to a 13-7 lead in the third quarter, Evans beat two-deep coverage down the left sideline and scored on a 36-yard catch. On Tampa Bay’s next drive, Evans converted a third-and-14 with a 34-yard catch and then completed the drive with a 56-yard touchdown down the left seam. The Redskins blitzed on the play but failed to get to McCown, and that play call ended up with linebacker Perry Riley trying to cover Evans down the field. It was on that drive that he managed to break triple-digits in yards, as the Bucs had to make up for several penalties. Evans’ final yardage total was the most ever by a Buccaneer rookie in a single game.

Moreover, Evans’ big game continued a November hot streak. After gaining 124 yards and scoring twice in Cleveland, he had another 125 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against Atlanta. His exploits in FedExField made him the first rookie since Randy Moss in 1998 to have at least 100 yards and one score in three straight games.

“We started the week and our goal was to go 1-0, and we did that, we played Buc football,” our defense was playing fast and the offense was making plays. They had a linebacker chasing me [on the second TD] and the O-Line did a great job protecting. Josh threw a great ball and I ran past the ‘backer into the end zone.”

The Bucs actually scored on special teams and defense before Evans and the offense got into the act. LB Danny Lansanah picked off a deflected pass on the first play from scrimmage, setting up the first of Patrick Murray’s two field goals. Later in the first quarter, CB Johnthan Banks intercepted another Robert Griffin III pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.

Griffin completed 23 of 32 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown but was not able to hook up with any of his receivers down the field. Washington’s two longest completions, for 30 and 24 yards, were both short passes to running backs, the first one a touchdown by Roy Helu, Jr. just before halftime. Griffin was able to scramble for another 41 yards but, more importantly, was sacked six times. Five different defensive linemen had a hand in the six sacks, led by two from DE Jacquies Smith and 1.5 from DT Gerald McCoy.

“[Head] Coach [Lovie Smith] started the week off with the defense and talked about it all week – getting takeaways. Coming out the first play and getting an interception, that was good because we started off right. Then after that we just kept the pressure on.”

The Buccaneers built a 13-0 lead in the first half on the strength of three turnovers. Lansanah’s interception on the first play from scrimmage set up Murray’s 32-yard field goal and Banks’ pick on Washington’s third possession led directly to seven points. Banks intercepted a pass that had been tipped by LB Mason Foster and dashed 19 yards for the score, just diving to the right pylon to finish the play.

The Bucs’ third score was the result of a perfect 51-yard seam pass from McCown to Evans. The drive stalled after that play but still resulted in Murray’s 38-yard kick. The Bucs also turned away a first-and-goal opportunity for the Redskins thanks to consecutive sacks by McCoy and Smith and a missed field goal, then ended another scoring threat on Smith’s forced fumble against Helu.

However, Washington was able to change the tenor of the game significantly just before halftime, using the last 1:15 of the second quarter to drive 79 yards for a score. Griffin stood in against a blitz and was able to lob a pass over two Buc defenders to Helu, who saw open field in front of him and dashed 30 yards for the score. The Redskins actually moved the ball effectively for much of the half, racking up 195 yards of offense, including 91 on the ground, to the Bucs’ 124.

If that gave Washington the momentum heading into halftime, the Bucs were able to grab it back in the third quarter. After a second missed field goal by the Redskins, McCown threw deep down the right sideline to Evans. The rookie receiver simply outran two Washington defenders and the ball settled perfectly into his hands two yards deep in the end zone. Amazingly, McCown and Evans hooked up again early in the fourth quarter, this time for a 56-yard touchdown that gave the visiting team a 27-7 cushion with 14 minutes to play.

Washington received the opening kickoff but Tampa Bay’s offense was on the field almost immediately. On the first play from scrimmage, Griffin escaped a near-sack by David and got off a short pass to TE Niles Paul. Trying to pick a low pass off the turf, Paul ended up deflecting it up in the air and Lansanah swooped in to make a diving interception.

Photos from the first half of Buccaneers vs. Redskins.

Thus, Tampa Bay’s first drive started off at the Washington 29, and after a slow start McCown hit Jackson on a sharp 14-yard out to convert a third-and-11 and get the ball into the red zone. That’s as far as the drive went, however, though an alert recovery of a McCown fumble on third-and-five from the nine allowed the visitors to at least get three points on Murray’s 32-yard field goal.

Washington got one first down on their second possession and then tried to go deep to big-play receiver DeSean Jackson, but the pass was overthrown. On third-and-two from just before midfield, Griffin shot a short pass toward TE Jordan Reed but it was just out of his reach and the Redskins sent out the punting unit. Tress Way’s kick bounced into the end zone for a touchback.

The Bucs brought in rookie back Charles Sims to start the next drive and he promptly ripped off runs of four, 11 and 12 yards. After Sims was stuffed for a loss of two on his fourth run, McCown found TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins for seven yards but then just missed hooking up with WR Louis Murphy on third-and-five. Michael Koenen’s punt from just past midfield was downed at the Washington four-yard line.

Three plays into the ensuing drive, Griffin tried to throw a short pass out to the left to Garcon but it was tipped by Foster. Banks pulled in the deflection and returned it 19 yards for the game’s first touchdown, making a nifty move near the goal line to spin off a hit and dive at the pylon with the ball.

Washington had to start at its own 12 after a holding penalty on the kickoff return that followed, but got two quick first downs, the second on a 15-yard screen to Jackson. On third-and-three from the Washington 45, Griffin scrambled up the middle and dived over one Buc tackler to get 10 yards to the opposite 45. A two-yard run by Morris brought the first quarter to an end. Two plays into the second quarter, McDonald dropped Griffin for a six-yard sack on third-and-four.

Photos from the second half of Buccaneers vs. Redskins at FedExField.

Unfortunately, Thigpen muffed the ensuing punt and Washington recovered it at Tampa Bay’s 17. A facemask penalty on David on top of a 13-yard run by Morris made it first-and-goal at the Bucs’ six. A 10-yard sack by McCoy two plays later made it third-and-goal from the 20. Griffin had almost no time to get off a throw on the next snap before he was buried by DE Jacquies Smith. Even better, K Kai Forbath then drove his 47-yard field goal try wide to the right.

The Bucs thus inherited the ball at their own 37 and immediately backed up on a holding penalty. Two plays into the drive, however, McCown dropped a pass over the top to Evans, who was running down the left seam. Evans hauled it in for a gain of 51, which led Murray’s 38-yard field goal and a 13-0 lead with 7:39 to play in the half.

Three Morris runs gave the Redskins a first down at their 33, and a designed run by Griffin two plays later moved the chains again, right before the midfield stripe. A well-designed screen to RB Roy Helu got the ball into Buccaneer territory, but the play ended in a turnover as Jacquies Smith poked the ball out and DT Akeem Spence recovered it at the Bucs’ 37.

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Evans made a sliding catch near the right sideline two plays later to pick up 18 yards to the Washington 43. The drive stalled there, however, thanks in large part to a very good play by CB Tracy Porter to break up a deep pass intended for Murphy down the middle.

Washington took over at its own 21 after the punt and, two plays later, Morris found a seam on a draw play to get 19 yards to the 42. The Redskins used their first timeout at that point with 34 seconds left in the half. Morris took a short pass on the next play and bounced off several tackles to get all the way to the Bucs’ 34. Two plays later, the Bucs blitzed and Washington had the perfect play called, a swing pass to Helu that went right to the vacated area. Helu easily dashed 30 yards for the Redskins’ first score of the game.

Having deferred after winning the opening coin toss, the Bucs got the opening kickoff of the second half but a holding call on the return made them start at their own 15. A power run by Sims moved the chains on third-and-one to prevent a three-and-out, but that was the only first down of the possession.

Washington started at its own 22 after the punt and got close to midfield on the strength of Griffin’s mobility. A rollout pass to Reed worked for 10 and then the QB scrambled for another six. The Bucs appeared to have the drive stopped just past midfield when Griffin again overthrew a deep shot to Jackson, but DE William Gholston was flagged for hands to the face, moving the ball all the way to the Bucs’ 34. However, Michael Johnson swarmed over Griffin on third-and-two, producing a six-yard sack that forced Washington to try a 50-yard field goal. Forbath again pushed it to the right to keep the score at 13-7.

Two plays into the following drive, TE Brandon Myers broke wide open into the left flat and McCown found him for a gain of 21 to the Redskins’ 38. Two plays after that, Evans broke free down the left sideline and McCown delivered a perfect pass for a 36-yard score that restored the Bucs’ 13-point lead.

Griffin made an impressive play to step up from a collapsing pocket and hit WR Andre Roberts on third-and-five to start the next drive, but on the ensuing third-and-13 he was hurried into an ineffective scramble by a quick rush from McCoy. Washington’s punt hit the end zone for another touchback.

A four-yard loss by Sims on first down and a delay of game call put that drive into a quick hole. However, on the last play of the third quarter, McCown threw a dart down the right seam to Evans, who hauled it in for a 34-yard gain to the midfield stripe. That converted a third-and-14, but the Bucs fell back into a first-and-25 hole thanks to a facemask call on T Demar Dotson. Again, the solution was Evans. On second-and-16 from the Bucs’ 44, McCown found Evans running free behind the defense and threw over the top for a 56-yard touchdown.

The Redskins went for it on fourth-and-four from their 37 on the next drive and Griffin converted it with an eight-yard scramble. However, a second sack by Jacquies Smith, a false start and a Helu catch that lost three yards made it third-and-24 back at the Washington 31. A short pass to Helu didn’t come close to moving the chains this time and the Redskins punted away with 9:28 to play. Washington got the ball back one more time and drove into Tampa Bay territory but saw time expire as they reached the 35.Game Notes:**

  • The Buccaneers declared the following players inactive prior to Sunday’s game: WR Robert Herron, CB Alterraun Verner, RB Doug Martin, CB C.J. Wilson, T Kevin Pamphile, TE Luke Stocker and DE Da’Quan Bowers. Verner, Martin and Stocker were out due to injury.
  • Washington’s seven inactives were: QB Kirk Cousins, WR Aldrick Robinson, CB Greg Ducre, G Spencer Long, De Stephen Bowen, T Tyler Polumbus and WR Santana Moss. None were out due to injury.
  • LB Danny Lansanah entered Week 11 tied for the league lead in interceptions among linebackers. He pulled into the lead just a few seconds into the game with a diving pick of a deflected pass on the first play from scrimmage.
  • CB Johnthan Banks scored the game’s first touchdown on a pick six later in the first quarter. That marked the first time since Nov. 5, 2000 at Atlanta that the Bucs’ defense had secured two interceptions in the game’s first quarter.
  • The first third down attempt by Tampa Bay’s offense needed 11 yards from the Washington 30. QB Josh McCown converted it with a 14-yard pass to WR Vincent Jackson. Through the first eight games of the season, the Buccaneers had failed to convert on any of their 24 third down tries needing more than 10 yards. In the last three games, the Bucs have converted four of eight third downs of more than 10 yards.
  • WR Mike Evans’ 51-yard reception in the second quarter was the Buccaneers’ longest completion of the season. It was also the first passing play of 50 or more yards for the team since a 60-yarder by Vincent Jackson at Carolina on Dec. 1, 2013. He then topped it with a 56-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter.
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